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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  November 21, 2013 4:00pm-6:01pm EST

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justice. if we don't adopt this bill, we won't require -- these are in the bill. these protections are -- just let me finish this paragraph, then i would be happy to. we won't require commanders to immediately refer all allegations of sexual assault to professional criminal investigators. we won't restrict the authority of senior officers to modify the findings and sentence of court-martial convictions. we won't require higher level review of any decision not to prosecute allegations of sexual assault. i would be happy to yield. i will put the balance of my statement in the record. the presiding officer: all time has expired. mr. inhofe: i have a parliamentary inquiry. we were to be given equal time for the last ten minutes. i had three minutes and all i want to do is ask a question. am i -- mr. levin: i ask unanimous consent that that be allowed. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. inhofe: everything that my chairman has said i agree with. he's making my speech for me. it's critical that we get the bill. all i'm saying is i made the
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statement yesterday, that republicans are entitled to some amendments, i'm asking now, we're able to get it down to 25 amendments, just to be considered, and will the majority consider these 25 amendments which can be done -- it could be done in half day. would he car that -- consider that? mr. levin: there are no democratic amendments on his list -- mr. inhofe: i said 25 for -- this is your list, you come up with your list. the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. mr. levin: we cannot agree to a list of amendments, many of which are not agreed to on this side, many which would be filibustered on this side which would result in just making it impossible for us to get to a defense authorization bill conclusion. i would ask unanimous consent, madam president, that a unanimous consent request which i was going to make but i will withhold that lists 25 -- 26
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amendments, half democratic and half republican, that i was going to ask unanimous consent be adopted because they've been cleared but which i understand will be objected to so i won't make the unanimous consent request, instead i will put this request in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. inhofe: i just reserving the right to object -- mr. levin: i'm not. mr. inhofe: okay. the presiding officer: there is no unanimous consent request. yes, the senator from michigan. mr. levin: i would ask the balance of my statement be inserted in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. all time has expired. the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: cloture motion, we the undersigned senators in in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate hereby move to bring to a close the debate on s. 1197 to authorize authorization for the fiscal year 2007 for military
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activities, to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year and for other purposes signed by 17 senators. the presiding officer: by unanimous consent the mandatory quorum under mandatory quorum under rule 22 call has been waived. the he is with question is, the it the sense of the senate that debate on s. 1197 for military activities of the deafen ch defends and for defense activities of the department of energy, to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year and oops be brought to a close. the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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vote: the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or change their vote? a senator: can we have order, mr. president. the presiding officer: the senate will be in order. the senate will be in order.
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on this vote, the yeas are 51, the nays are 44. three-fifths of the senators duly chosen and sworn not having vote ed in the affirmative, the motion is not agreed to. mr. reid: i enter a motion to reconsider the vote on which cloture was not invoked on s. s. 11. the presiding officer: the motion is entered. mr. reid: i move to proceed to the consideration of s. done reserve 28 as provided under the previous order. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: senate concurrent resolution -- the presiding officer: the senate will be in order. the clerk: senate concurrent resolution 28 providing for a conditional recess or ajunment of the senate and the house of representatives. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the question is on the adoption of senate concurrent resolution 28. mr. reid: i ask for the yeas and nays. the presiding officer: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll.
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the presiding officer: are there any senators wishing to vote or to change their vote? seeing none, on this vote the ayes are 51. the nays are 42. and the concurrent resolution is agreed to. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: i ask regular order regarding the millett nomination. the presiding officer: regular order has been requested. the senate resumes executive session to consider the millett nomination. mr. reid: i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: postcloture. the senator from arizona.
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mr. mccain: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to address the senate as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: mr. president, he the events and votes that took place today are probably as historic as any votes that i have seen taken in the years that i have been here in the united states senate. the majority, with only majority -- the majority, with only majority votes, the same as was passed with obamacare, with only democrat votes, changed the rules of the senate in a way that is detrimental, in my view, not only to the united states senate, not only to those of us in the minority party, but great damage to the institution itself. one of the men who served in
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this senate for a long, long time that we respected as much or more than any other leader -- he certainly knew the senate rules more than any of the rest of us combined -- was one robert byrd. three months before his death, robert byrd wrote this letter, "during my half century of service and various leadership posts in the u.s. senate including majority leader, minority leader, majority whip and now president pro tempore, i've carefully studied this body's histories, rules and precedent. studying those rules leads one to an understanding of the constitutional framers' vision for the senate as an institution and the subsequent development of the senate rules and precedents to protect that institutional role. this is important, i say to my colleagues. he said, "i am sympathetic to frustrations about the senate's rules, but those frustrations are nothing new. i recognize the need for the
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senate to be responsive to changing times and of work continually for necessary reforms aimed at modernizing this institution using the prescribed senate procedure for amending the rules. however, i believe that efforts to change or reinterpret the rules in order to facilitate expeditious action by a simple majority while popular are grossly misguided. while i welcome needed reform, we must also be mindful of our first responsibility, to preserve the institution's special purpose. finally at the end he said, "extended deliberation and debate when employed judiciously protect every senator and the interest of their constituency and are essential to the protection of the liberties of a free people." i ask unanimous consent that this letter by robert byrd be included in the record at this time. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: mr. president, i wish that robert byrd had been here on the floor today. i wish that robert byrd had seen
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the travesty that just took place on a party-line vote. and when i use the word hypocrisy, i use it guardedly. i do not use that word with abandon. but this is another broken promise, another broken promise. i read from a article entitled "flashback: reid in 2008." as long as i am the leader we will not have the nuclear option. senator reid said in a 2008 interview that as long as he was the leader a nuclear option would never happen under his watch. quote, as long as i am the leader the answer is no. he said i think we should just forget that. that is a black chapter in the history of the senate. i hope we never ever get to do that again because i really do
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believe it will ruin our country. he was talking about 2005 when this side of the aisle was in the majority and we were going to change -- there was an effort which we were able to defuse, in order to do exactly what we did today. so in 2008 the majority leader said, reid rallied against republicans who fought for the measure saying it would lead to a unicameral legislature and the united states senate was purposely set up by the founding fathers to have different rules than the house of representatives. such a measure like the nuclear option, he said, would -- quote -- "change our country forever." and i'm sorry to say i agree with him. i agree with what he said in 2008. yet, on thursday, on a nearly party-line vote of 52-48, the democrats abruptly changed the senate balance of power. so here's the full exchange i'll read from. tom daschle.
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what was the nuclear option and what likelihood is there we're going to have to face nuclear option-like questions again? this is an interview that the majority leader had with former majority leader tom daschle. "what the republicans came up with was a way to change our country forever. they made a decision if they didn't get every judge they wanted they were going to make the senate just like the house of representatives. we would in fact have a unicameral legislature where a simple majority would determine whatever happens." in the house of representatives today pelosi is leader. prior to that it was hastert. whatever they wanted, hastert or pelosi they got done. the rules over there allowed that. the senate was set up to be different. that was the genius, the vision of our founding fathers that this bicameral legislature which was unique had two different duties. one was as franklin said to pour the coffee into the saucer and let it cool off.
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that's why the you have the ability to filibuster and to terminate filibuster. they wanted to get rid of all that. that's what the nuclear option was all about. daschle, is there any likelihood that we're going to face circumstances like that again? reid, as long as i am the leader, the answer is no. i repeat, he said as long as i'm the leader, the answer's no. i think we should just forget that. that is a black chapter in the history of the senate. i hope we never, ever get to do that again because i really do believe it will ruin our country. i said during that debate that in all my years in government, that was the most important thing i ever worked on. boy, this gives new meaning as to where you stand on an issue as opposed to where you sit. so this hypocrisy is not confined to members of the senate. senator barack obama, former member of this body, on april 1,
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2005, i note for the benefit especially our newer members on the democrat side who who were t here at the time and don't know what we went through to try and stop it when it was being proposed by this side of the aisle, then-senator barack obama said who congratulated the senate today on their action. he said -- quote -- "the american people sent us here to be their voice. they understand that those voices can at times become lewd and argumentative, but they also hope we can disagree without being disagreeable." and then senator barack obama on april 1, 2005, went on to say -- "what they don't expect is for one party, be it republican or democrat, to change the rules in the middle of the game so that they can make all the decisions while the other party is told to sit down and keep quiet." i ask my colleagues, what were we just told to do today? he went on to say -- "the
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american people want less partisanship in this town, but everyone in this chamber knows that the majority chooses to end the filibuster." quote -- "if they choose to change the rules and put an end to the democratic debate, then the fighting and the gridlock will only get worse." he went on to say -- "now, i understand the republicans are getting a lot of pressure to do this from faxes outside the chamber, but we need to rise above the ends justifies the means mentality because we're here to answer to the people, all the people, not just the ones that are wearing our particular party label," and he went on to say --" if the right of free and open debate is taken away from the minority party and the millions of americans who ask us to be their voice, i fear that already partisan atmosphere in washington will be poisoned to the point where no one will be able to agree on anything. that doesn't serve anyone's best interests, and it certainly isn't what the patriots who founded this democracy had in
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mind. we owe the people who sent us here. more than that, we owe them much more. there are several other. in may, 2005, senator reid also said -- quote -- "if there was ever an example of an abuse of power, this is it. the filibuster is the last check we have against the abuse of power in washington. we just eliminated the filibuster, my dear friends, on nominees. then he went on to say the threat to change the senate in april, 2005, the threat to change senate rules is a raw abuse of power and will destroy the very checks and balances our founding fathers put in place to prevent absolute power by any one branch of government. so yes, i'm upset. yes, several occasions. we have gotten together on a bipartisan basis and prevented exactly what happened today. what exactly happened today is not just a shift in power to
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appoint judges. that in itself is -- is something that's very important, but what we really did today and what is so damning and what will last for a long time unless we change it that could permanently change the unique aspects of this institution, the united states senate, is if a majority can change the rules, then only a majority can change the rules, then there are no rules. that is the only conclusion that anyone can draw from what we did today. suppose that in a few weeks that the majority doesn't like it, that we object to the motion to proceed. 51 votes. suppose that cloture, they don't like having those votes for cloture, 51 votes.
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my friends, we are approaching a slippery slope that will destroy the very unique aspect of this institution called the united states senate. and i believe that the facts will show as the republican leader pointedded out today that this was a bit of a straw man. yes, there have been a handful, a small number of nominees that were rejected by this side of the aisle, but there have been literally hundreds and hundreds of nominees who have not even been in debate on this -- on the floor of this senate. so all i can say is that when people make a commitment such as i just read from the president of the united states when he was in the senate, from our majority leader, we should not be surprised when there is a great deal of cynicism about when we give our word concerning things and our commitment to things.
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i go back to the man that i probably respected more than anyone in the years i have been in the united states senate, one robert byrd, and one thing i can promise you, that if robert byrd had been sitting over in the majority leader's chair today, you would not have seen the events that transcribed. this is a sad day. i'm angry, yes. we'll get over the anger. but the sorrow at what has been done to this institution will be with us for a long, long time. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. sessions: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. sessions: i want to thank senator mccain because i remember very vividly senator mccain was part of a group of 14 senators that avoided this kind of occurrence in 2005, i
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guess it was, right after president bush took office. a group of senators -- really, the entire democratic conference went into retreat as reported by "the new york times." i think senator schumer was an organizer of it, but the whole conference attended. cass unstein, laurence tribe, marcia greenberger were their experts, and they discussed about what to do with president bush's new election and his ability to appoint judges. they announced they were changing the ground rules of confirmation, and for the first time immediately thereafter the bush nominees were filibustered systematically. he nominated a mr. gregory who had been nominated by president clinton and not confirmed. president bush renominated him in a bipartisan act, and he was
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promptly confirmed. but i believe the very next ten nominees were all filibustered, every one of them. we had never seen any real filibuster of any judge until that time, but they were changing the ground rules to commence systematic filibuster, and they filibustered virtually the first ten judges president bush nominated. and it went on for weeks and months. we brought up nominees every way we could. these were some fabulous nominees. supreme court justices, people with high academic records. but they were all blocked. it was something we had never seen before in the senate. there was great intensity of focus on it, and it went on for quite a long time. and finally, there was a feeling on this side that this systematic filibuster was so significant that it really
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undermined and neutered the ability of the president of the united states to appoint judges, and this -- there was a discussion about changing the rules. and on -- as time went by, that became more and more a possibility. i think the american people turned against my colleagues who were blocking these judges because they didn't appreciate it, but finally a compromise was reached and this was what it amounted to. we will not filibuster a judge unless there are substantial reasons to do so, and so that was sort of the agreement. and at that moment, five judges were confirmed and a lot of people remember that, but what's forgotten is five went down.
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five highly qualified judges were defeated on a partisan ideological basis. right out of the chute, one of the first judges president bush ever nominated. and i would just say that what's happened so far is that we have confirmed 250 of president obama's judges. only two have been blocked. now, they have brought forth at this time three judges for the d.c. circuit, the district of columbia circuit. it's a federal circuit, and they are not needed. this country is financially broke. that even with the vacancies on the court today, with the eight judges they have, the average caseload per active judge is 149. the average caseload for all the judges in all the circuits
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around the country is 383. almost three times, more than twice. my circuit, the 11th circuit, the caseload per judge is 778, and they say they're not asking for more judges, that they have been able to maintain that caseload. they say well, this is such a horrible, complex circuit. it's not a horrible, complex circuit. that's not so. the judges take the whole summer off because they don't have sufficient caseloads to remain busy. judges on that circuit say they don't need any more judges, and they don't need any more judges. i have been ranking republican on the court subcommittee of judiciary since i have been -- and chairman of it from a
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time -- the entire time i have been in the senate, we have been on that subcommittee, one way or the other. i know how the caseloads are calculated. weighted caseloads and actual caseloads. so that's why these judges were not confirmed, because we don't need them, not for some ideological purposes. but the reason the president has insisted that they be appointed is an ideological purpose, because he wants to pack that court to be able to -- he thinks will impact regulatory matters that -- for years to come. and i would just say president bush tried to do the same thing. senator grassley and i, who had been opposing expanding the circuit, resisted president bush's importunings to approve one of his judges. and we eventually were able to fully transfer and close out one of those slots and move it to the ninth circuit where in the
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case of the judge was needed, and still the caseloads have dropped. the caseloads in the d.c. circuit have continued to drop year after year after year. and we are going broke. this country doesn't have enough money to run its -- do its business. we are borrowing and placing our children at great risk, so it's obvious we ought not to fill a judgeship that we don't need. it's about a million dollars a year. virtually a million dollars a year to fund one of these judgeships, for the judges and the clerks and the supporting secretaries and computer systems and courtrooms that we have to supply, it's a million dollars a year. it's like burning a million dollars a year right out here on the mall. we don't have a million dollars to throw away, and we have other places in america that need judgeships. so senator grassley has asked and i've supported and our bill would call for hearings, and
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then we would transfer these judges to places that have greater needs. and that's why the judges were not moved forward. the caseloads continued to decline, the need is less than ever and we don't have the money to fill a slot that we don't need. so i just tell you, it is heartbreaking to see that we have crossed this rubicon and changed these rules when the president as a matter of actual ability to perform the job has only had two judges be -- failed to be confirmed out of over 250. so this is just breathtaking to me and a lot of -- just a growing concern on our side of the aisle that senator reid, the majority leader, is just very unwilling to accept the
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process. he's unwilling to accept the fact that he can't win every battle. and so he just changed the rules so he could win. i feel that this is a dark day for the senate. i don't know how we can get our way out of it, but it's the biggest rules change -- certainly since i've been in the senate, maybe in the history of the senate where it's changed by a simple majority by overruling the chair. the parliamentarian advises the presiding officer of the senate, when senator reid asked that these judges be confirmed by majority vote, the parliamentarian advises the chair and the chair ruled you can't confirm them on a majority vote. you have to have -- have to move -- you can't shut off
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debate without a supermajority vote. and the chair ruled. senator reid says i appeal the chair. i ask my colleagues in the senate to overrule the rules of the senate by a simple majority vote to overrule the parliamentarian and the presiding officer of the united states senate and that's what happened. when our rules say to change the rules of the senate it takes a two-thirds vote. this is a dangerous path. i hope my colleagues know it. and a lot of things are happening that have been bad in the senate. i'm going to talk about some more of them that should not have happened and that are eroding the ability of this senate to function in the way it should function, eroding the ability of individual senators from either party to have their voices heard. mr. president, i thank the
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chair, would yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from kansas. mr. moran: thank you. i'm a new member of the united states senate serving in my first term, and i was a member of towps before coming to -- the house of representatives before coming to the united states senate and i had great expectation of the opportunities that serve us here -- service here in this body presented to me. the presiding officer today has had similar experiences. we served in the house of representatives together. and the ability for an individual senator, particularly a new united states senator and perhaps even more so someone from a smaller, rural state, our ability to influence
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the outcome, to receive attention, to have the administration nominees come pay a call on us to get acquainted is diminished. and so today is in my view the day that reduces the ability for all united states senators to have influence in the outcome of the decisions of this body and therefore the outcome of the future of our country. and i don't really understand why this happened today. the empirical evidence doesn't suggest that republicans have been abusive, that the minority party has failed in its obligation to be responsible. we heard the words that the senator from arizona, senator mccain, spoke about others, president obama, the majority leader of the senate, the former senator from west virginia, senator byrd, about their views on this issue and yet the outcome today was something different, different
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than what they said just a short time ago. it's hard to know why we did what we did today, but i know that our ability as senators of the united states to represent the people that hired us to represent them has been diminished. and i'm reluctant to attribute motives to why this occurred but in the absence of evidence that would suggest there's a justifiable reason, a justified reason for doing so, i'm fearful that what is reported in the press and elsewhere is the reason that the rules were changed, and -- which makes today even more sad to me because the explanation for why the rules were changed was a political effort to change the topic of conversation here in washington, d.c. and across the country. the story at least is that the white house pressured the senate to change its rules. not because the rules needed to
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be changed or because there was abuse or because people believed this was a good rule change for the benefit of the senate and the country but because the affordable care act, obamacare, is front and center in the national immediate-and-on the minds of the american people. and as obamacare is being implemented, people are discovering the serious problems that it presents them and their families, and therefore politically we need to change the dialogue, change the topic and for us to use a political reason to do so much damage to the institution of the united states is such a travesty. i want to mention the affordable care act and talk just a moment about that. i'm headed home on monday i will conduct my 1,000th town hall meeting, now in the united
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states senate, a town hall meeting i've conducted in all 105 counties since my election to the united states senate and it happens on monday will be the 1,000th. i have no doubt but what the serious conversations we will have will not be about the rules or the institution of the senate or what happened with something called cloture or filibuster. the real problem people face is what obamacare is doing to them and their families. and i have this sense that there's this effort or perhaps belief but at least an effort to convince people that this is just a problem with a web site, and it certainly has received -- it, the web site, has certainly received a lot of attention over the last few weeks. but perhaps, unfortunately, the web site is not the real problem, and the real problems we have with the affordable care act passed by a congress on a straight line party vote here in
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the senate similar to what we saw today, the consequences of obamacare are real and cannot be fixed by fixing the web site. i wish those problems were just a simple matter of a technician adjusting the program that has been created for enrollment, but it's not the case. the mess of obamacare runs so much deeper. you know, one of the consequences that i know i will hear about on monday is hitting an individuals and families across the country right now is their canceled health insurance policies. president obama talked about that in the description of what the affordable care act would mean to americans if you like your policy, you can keep it, if you like your physician, you can retain him or her. the fact that millions of americans are now losing their health care coverage is not an
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unintended consequence and it's i doubt anything that can be fixed with anything that president obama said in his press conference a few days ago. the reality is that this cannot be described as something that we didn't know about. smct here in the united states senate floor in 2010 again a straight line party-line vote occurred just like we saw today in which the opportunity to do away with the provisions of the grandfather clause, again republicans unanimouslier supporting an -- unanimously supporting an enzi amendment so this wouldn't occur and a party-line vote with democrats voting the other way. so it wasn't something that wasn't considered or thought about, wasn't like we woke up two weeks ago and saw policies were being canceled and thought, oh, my gosh, that's not what the affordable care act is about. the reality, it was built in, it is a consequence of the affordable care act.
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because in order for obamacare to work and the exchanges to function, the federal government has to have the power to describe what policies will be available to the american people. obamacare takes the freedom to make health care decisions for an individual and their families and rests that authority with the federal government. despite the headaches and frustrations and anger that americans and kansans are experiencing right now, i just don't see that there is a real relief opportunity for us to solve that problem because undoing what is transpierg with the policies -- transpiring with the policies would undermine the foundation of obamacare. many kansans, they're very -- i consider my task as united states senator in part to help people. and people tell me in person and
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by email and by phone call about the consequences, the stories are a wide range of challenges, i talked about this on the senate floor last week. for example, the conversation my wife has breast cancer, we can't -- our policy has been canceled, we have nothing to replace it with, help me. those are things that i can't imagine anybody in the united states senate wouldn't try to do is to help them. i don't know how you do that with a basis of obamacare that designs the policies and removes the individual person from making the decisions about what's in their best interest and for their families. calling for repeal and replacement of obamacare is not an assertion on my part that everything is fine with our health care system. there are problems with our health care delivery system and they do need addressing. long before president obama was president of the united states,
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my service in congress, much of the effort was trying to find ways to make certain that health care was available, affordable to places across my state. whether you lived in a community of 2,000 or 20,000 or two million. i guess we don't have many communities with two million. 200,000. you ought to have access to health care. and in my view, it's an important task for all of us. and while some hope that obamacare would be the solution, it turns out to be the problem. we can replace obamacare with practical reforms that promote the promise that the president made, that empower individuals, and give people the options that they want. we need to do that. in order to do that we need to set obamacare aside and pursue what i would call commonsense step-by-step initiatives to improve the quality of health care and slow the increase or reduce the cost of health care. in my view, you cannot not
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address preexisting conditions and we need protections for people, individual coverage without a massive expansion of the federal government. we need to make certain that millions of individuals retaining their current health insurance policies that they know and they know about and they like, we need to make certain that we continue that health coverage by enabling americans to shop for coverage from coast to coast regardless of what state they live in. competition will help reduce premiums and increased competition in the insurance market is something of great value. increased tax incentives for people to purchase health coverage regardless of where they work, to assist low-income americans we can offer tax credits to obtain private insurance of their choice, to strengthen the access of health care in our community health centers, we need to make certain that our community health centers are supported so
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that people who have no insurance or no ability to pay have an access point to the health care delivery system. instead of limiting the plans that americans can purchase and carry, we need to give small businesses and other organizations the ability to combine their efforts and get a lower price because of quantity buying. we need to encourage health savings accounts so people are more responsible for their own health and when it comes time to purchase health care coverage or access to health care, we are focused on what it would cost and we don't overutilize the system. people need to be empowered to have ownership of their health care plans and their health. we spend billions of dollars and health care entitlements and we need to boost our nation's support for the national institutes of health by investing in medical research, we can reduce the cost of health care for all and save lives and improve the quality of life. our medical work force needs to
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be enhanced, we need more doctors and nurses and health care providers, they need to be encouraged to serve across the country in urban areas where it's difficult to retain or attract a sphition physician, in rural small towns where it's that's a challenge as well and finally reform our liability system that inflate premiums and cause physicians to practice defensive medicine. those are examples of things that we can do and we can do increnltly and they -- incrementally and they seem to be common sense. and if we don't get it quite right we have the ability to take a step back and make an alteration and improve it over time as compared to the consequences, the massive consequences of this multithousand page bill that has we were told we have to pass so that we know what's in it. the affordable care act's fatal flaw is not its website but rather the underlying premise that the government can and should determine what's best for americans regard less of what they, americans want.
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we must not expect a health care system built upon such a faulty foundation. obamacare stands in stark contrast to the values of individual liberty and freedom that have guided our country since its inception and americans should be in control of their own health care and i will continue to fight policies that violate those values and advocate for policies that guard them but also work to make sure that all americans have better access to more affordable health care. if you like your health care policy, you should be able to keep it. and if you like your physician, you should be able to retain him or her providing health care for you. our task is difficult but it's one that's well worth the balance. we can preserve individual liberty and pursue goals in our country that benefit all americans. and i thank the president for the time on the floor this afternoon. i yield.
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mr. president, i notice the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. sessions: mr. president, i would ask that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sessions: mr. president, to follow up on some of the comments i made earlier about the d.c. circuit, there have been accusations -- and i guess everybody has their perspective -- but the accusations seem to be that the republicans, for ideological reasons, won't fill these judgeship slots. and -- but i would say to my colleagues, truly these judgeships slots were necessary and needed and these nominees, i believe all three of them would be confirmed. if they were nominated for other circuits, i believe they would be confirmed, although i'm not
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saying there aren't objections to some of them, but i don't think this question we're dealing with has to do with the quality of the judges. and the reason i'm saying that is because i felt like that -- that this action in not filling these judgeships should not be offensive to my colleagues because it wasn't based on a rejection of president obama's nominees based on the fact that we were too strict in our evaluation of whoever he's nominated. i have voted probably 90% of president obama's judges, well over 80%, i know, and the president has confirmed over 200 judges. i earlier said 250, i think it's over 200, and only two have been
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denied confirmation. so these three judges have been appointed to a circuit and the caseload has been falling and it's already by far -- by far -- the lowest caseload in the country based on the eight judges now that are active in that circuit. and adding three more judges would bring that caseload down substantially even further and create an even more underemployed court. and we don't need to do it, especially when we have courts around the country that do need more judges, more district judges than circuit judges but there's some circuit judge slots that need to be filled. so the -- i would say that out of respect to my colleagues. but it was a cause for concern that the president and other supporters of his judicial
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vision have openly stated their goal for filling these slots is to advance their agenda. president obama says -- quote -- "we are remaking the courts." senator schumer, "our strat i sy will be to nominate four more people for each of those vacancies. we will fill up the d.c. circuit one way or the other." "one way or the other." no limit to what we'll do to fill these slots that are not needed. senator harry reid, "i switched the majority. people don't focus much on the d.c. circuit. it is, some say, even more important than the supreme court." i've heard conservatives somewhat make that statement but that is totally wrong. it's not that important a circuit. it's an important circuit,
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occasionally key administrative rulings get filed in the d.c. circuit and they never get appealed to the supreme court. their decision may be final on some administrative power. but it is not equivalent to the supreme court, nowhere close. and you can see it based on how few cases they actually handle. senator reid goes on to say, "we need at least one more. there are three vacancies. we need at least one more and that will switch the majority." apparently he's saying there's a division within the circuit and one vote -- one-vote majority for a more restrained view of the administrative rulings that the court deals with sometimes and a group that's more activist. and he wants to switch that majority. and a bunch of others has said the same thing. they've said it, doug kendall, a
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liberal activist, "with legislative priorities gridlocked in congress" -- get this, they want the court to advance their political agenda that cannot be passed in the congress. let me repeat that. the liberal activist goal is to advance an agenda that cannot be passed by the united states congress, the duly elected representatives. i remember hodding carter, who served president jimmy carter, and then went on one of the morning sunday talk shows, meett the press" or something, he was one of the regular guests -- or hosts. and he said one time, sometimes democrats and li liberals just e to admit it. we want the court to do for us that which we cannot win at the ball locks box. and judges shouldn't be doing that. so that's what mr. kendall says. he says, "with legislative
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gridlock in congress, the president's best hope for advancing his agenda is through executive action and that runs through the d.c. circuit." nan aaron, long active in advocating activist federal judges, said this -- quote -- -- "this court is critically important. a majority has made decisions that frustrated the president's agenda." well, so the president is being pressured by a lot of these special interests -- and there are others -- that advocating these kind of actions but we -- the court is a court that's well constituted to do its duty and it will continue to do so. it needs no more judges and we don't have the money to fill it. we don't have the money to spend on it in case -- just to allow
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him to pack the court with some of his nominees. they will more likely advance an agenda, at least he and his activist friends seem to favor. now, when i came to the senate, senators on both sides of the aisle got to offer amendments. and i remember senator specter, who was then a republican, independent republican, a great senator who loved the senate, switched parties and became a democrat. we were right down there on the floor and he was managing the health bill. and i had something i wanted him to accept as part of the managers' package and he didn't want to do it. and i asked him again -- he didn't want to do it. and i asked him again -- and he didn't want to do it. i wanted him to agree because i didn't want to offer the a.m
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amendment and have senator specter oppose it because i figured i'd like the vote. and so i asked him -- you know, he finally got irritated with me bugging him and he said, you are a united states senator. you want to offer your amendment, offer your amendment. that's the way it was when i came to the senate. you didn't like something, you could offer your amendment. but the manager of the bill had a lot of respect from the colleagues, and if the managers urge people not to vote for it, you're like the not to win, but at least you could get a vote. if you promised your constituents back home you believed in something and you were going to fight for it, you could at least get a vote, even if you lost. you could tell people you did that. and then you could hold people accountable for voting against what some people might like and others would oppose. and people would know where senators stand. we've had a dramatic, dramatic reduction in the number of vot
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votes, really significant. and it started i think in maybe the late 1990's. i know senator frist filled the tree a number of times, not many over his time here. but senator reid has just exploded this process. and the perfect example is this defense bill. it was on the floor all week, and we've normally had at least 25 or 30 votes on the defense bill. we spend $500 billion in that authorization. and it's a lot of concerns and interest about how defense money and policies over sexual abuse or other issues relevant to the military. those are important issues that people have concerns about and are willing to debate on, why shouldn't they be able to get a
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vote? really, why should they not be able to get a vote? so we started this debate. some of the new colleagues that got elected in 20 -- i guess -- 12, they particularly wanted to change the rules of the senate and demanded that we do better. and i raised the question of what the majority leader has been doing. and let's take this defense bill i mentioned. what did he do? he stands up, he gets the right of first recognition in the senate, and there are only a certain number of amendments that can be put out on the amendment tree, and he fills all those slots. we call it "filling the tree." and then no one else can get an amendment up that the majority leader doesn't approve. it's really unbelievable. and like frogs in warming water,
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we don't even realize the pan rear in has about got us cook -- the pan we're in has about got us cooked. we have members on our side that have been awfully unwilling or have i missed what's happening o us. and i guess half of our members, even on the republican side, were not here when all this started. all they've known is this process. so senator reid fills the tree. and so he says -- he approves two amendment amendments two see amendments for the military, and that's all we've had all week. and he immediately files cloture. he immediately files to shut off debate. and when he does that, he then says, we're filibustering, mr. president. he's saying that's a filibuster.
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and he is not going to -- and he's going to file for cloture and demand that we grant cloture and move the bill without any amendments. and this is unacceptable. so republicans say, we're not going to end debate on the bill until we have a legitimate opportunity to file amendments to the defense authorization bill and actually vote on some of the key issues facing america's national security and our men and women in uniform. we want a robust ability. no. well, submit a few amendments. well, that's too many. and we're not going to vote on that one. i don't like that one. i don't like that one. i don't like that one. no, you can't get a vote on that. our members don't want to vote on that. you can only have a constricted number. and so we have this spectacle of
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members of the united states senate, united states senators from great states all over america, hat in hand bowing before the majority leader, pleading that he allow them to have their amendment up for a vote. and it's really not right. it is an alteration of the whole concept of the free and open debate the senate is all about. i truly believe that it is. and we're going to have to stop it. and i've -- i blame myself. i've complained about this probably as much, or maybe more than anyone on our side. but i haven't really ta taken te action really that we need to take to confront this issue. so when my new young colleagues and i were discussing this, one of them said, why, we even have to ask senator mcconnell to
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get his permission to offer our amendment. well, how could this happen? how could a united states senator from one of the great states of america be in a position, a democratic senator -- he has a majority in the senate -- how could he be in the position where he has to seek senator mcconnell's approval to get an amendment u up? well, the answer is this: snosenator reid tells senator mcconnell i'm not going to have all these amendments. we're only going to have five amendments. and you can't have this one, this one, and this one. and what are your amendments, senator mcconnell says to senator reid. these are the amendments we want to offer. senator mcconnell says, you've restricted my amendments. i don't want the votes on those two amendments. you're going to have to pull those down. so in effect that young senator
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was telling me the truth. i suspect senator reid goes back and says, senator mcconnell is objecting to your amendment, we can't get it up. why can't you get it up? i mean, the very idea that a united states senator from new york has got to ask a senator from kentucky whether or not he can have an amendment is contrary to the approach of the senate. and so this is fillin -- filline tree is altering the whole process. the and again and again and again, senator reid takes the floor, he fills the tree, he limits amendments, he files cloture immediately, and those of us who say, no, we're not going to agree to shut off debate through cloture because you haven't allowed us to have a legitimate chance to offer amendmentamendment, and we votet cloture and he says, you're
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filibustering the bill. and he adds all these up, and he says, republicans to on precedented agree -- to an unprecedented agree are filibustering when all it is is a reaction to his railroading tactics that have never been used to this degree in the history of the senate. and i remember -- and senator mccain was quite correct in pointing out the switching of positions that senator reid now takes when he was opposing this kind of tactic before. in supporting filibusters, he's now taking the exact opposite. now, with regard to our judicial issues, the democrats went in restreet in 20 2000 and decidedo
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change the ground rules. i believe senator schumer was one of the organizers, according to the "new york times." and he said, we're going to change the ground rules, and they started immediately and held ten federal judge nominees of president bush -- virtually the first ten - to the court of appeals -- and filibustered. and we've never seen anything like that. and now, according to this little document i have, senator schumer says that we're going to confirm these judges one way or the other. and if you are using the right to filibuster that i pioneered, that senator reid pioneered, if you use those rights, now that we have the majority, we're going to change the rules for the simple majority. and we're not going to allow
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these judges to be blocked, even though we have no need for one of them. and we're going to ram it through, and we're going to make the taxpayers pay for it, $1 million a year, one way or the other. so that's where we are. and i don't believe it's good. i'm not opposed to modernists. i believe we need to be proposed in our principles. i don't believe you can change it one year and change it back the next and act like nothing significant happened. i believe there is a truth, and i believe that there are values that need to be consistently upheld, at least at a minimum, so that this senate can function. and senator reid has got to stop this process. he cannot continue to dominate the senate, the likes of which
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it never happened before. there is no one-man dictator in this senate. and we need to say "no." that's just the way it is. there is no way the majority leader of the senate of the united states should be dominating this body like it's happening today. and going to the ultimate of changing the rules, like was done today. so i feel strongly about that. we're going to continue to talk about that. we have an institution to preserve. senator byrd would never have allowed this to happen, as senator mccain said, the historian of the senate who explained to us this great senate's history. when i first came here, he lectured to both parties and new members about what it's all about. and the love he had for this institution is strong. and i happened to have the honor earlier today to hear senator
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levin talk about this. he's leaving this body. he is a great senator. smart. i have been so impressed how he's handled the armed services committee, on which i'm a member and he's the chairman. he gets virtual unanimous votes ojt authorization bill. the only reason we had no votes on the bill that's on the floor today in committee is because they marked the spending level above what the budget control act says. shouldn't have done that. we spent -- under that proposal, we'd spend more money than we're allowed to spend under the law. but it was done. but otherwise all the differences were freely discussed. we had multiple amendments. senator levin is very precise. he allows people to make amendments. he suggests compromise. he allows people time to discuss with staff, come back, amend, agree, disagree, and finally
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have your vote. and it creates good spirit, and it creates a committee that even on legislation as important as this can pass unanimously out of committee. i believe last year the bill was unanimous out of armed services committee, which is hard to achieve in any legislative body. so, mr. president, this is a dark day. i'm disappointed where we are, and this is a matter that can't just be forgotten. it won't be forgotten. we'll need to act pre-- we don't need to act precipitously, but we need to make clear that, for the senate to work, individual senators of both parties have to be free to offer amendments. that clearly needs to be so. and that certain rights a minority party might have cannot be eroded any time they become
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effective to frustrating the majority leader's desire to advance certain pieces of legislation or nominees. this is not going away. we'll keep discussing it. i hope and flai we'll be able to -- i hope and pray that we'll be a able to reach some sort of solution that puts us back on the right path. i would yield the floor. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:


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